Hope springs eternal. Even as the party goes up in flames all around him turning to ash his Lohiaite legacy and decades of hard-earned political capital, septuagenarian patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav refused to read the writing on the wall, settling instead on making one final attempt at keeping his flock together.
Right at this moment, however, it seems to be an exercise in futility because what happened on Monday — the dark climax of an ugly family strife — will make it very difficult for his son and heir apparent Akhilesh Yadav to continue as the chief minister of UP unless Mulayam manages to broker an unlikely truce.
The meeting of SP's rank and file convened by the supremo at the party headquarters on Monday saw some extraordinary scenes culminating in further hardening of positions between the rival Akhilesh and Shivpal Yadav camps.
On an open stage, before an army of loyal workers from all levels — zila panchayat, taluka to MLCs, MLAs, MPs and ministers cleaved down the middle between two warring factions — a riveting tragedy of allegations, counter-allegations, backstabbing, innuendos, intrigues, conspiracies, filmi dialogues and 'heart wrenching' emotions was played out. Beyond the anagnorisis, hamartia, peripeteia and denouement what emerged were apparently irreconcilable differences between Akhilesh and his uncle Shivpal with both stopping just short of physical altercation during the end of Mulayam's speech.
Akhilesh had earlier offered to step down as CM if "Netaji had asked for it", clarifying that he had never harboured any idea of floating a new party. He trained his guns entirely on Amar Singh and singled him out as the conspiratorial wheeler-dealer who had apparently "predicted" that Akhilesh won't remain as CM by November.
I was hurt when Amar Singh said that by November Akhilesh will not be CM in UP. Ramgopal ji didnt say that: Akhilesh Yadav
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 24, 2016
Visibly choking on words during his short 13-minute address with his father and uncle among the audience, the UP CM said he has nothing but respect for his dad and guru Mulayam Singh, but he cannot remain silent when conspiracies are being hatched to demolish the party.
"Merey pita, merey guru hain (my father is my guru)" he said. "Let netaji (Mulayam) install a chief minister who he feels is honest…Why should I form a new party?" he posed in a broken voice.
Akhilesh presented himself as a dutiful son, mindful of his filial responsibilities and gave the examples of reinstating minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati and bureaucrat Deepak Singhal "against own wishes" to respect Mulayam's opinion, adding: "I have no stakes in this party. You have helped me reach dizzying heights. Everything I have is given to me by you."
He also listed the developmental projects that he have been executed under his watch. "I have done everything for the betterment of the party and my government has worked for all-round development of Uttar Pradesh and I will continue to do that," he said.
Akhilesh's gameplan was to project himself as a victim of conspiracy and come out of the pyre unscathed, maybe even with an enhanced reputation as the CM who "finally stood up to the bullying."
Shivpal took to the stage and in an indication of the distance between the two power centres, squarely blamed Akhilesh for trying to form a new party. There was no finesse or innuendos, just a bludgeoning of Akhilesh's earlier statement.
Shivpal swore on 'Gangajal' that chief minister Akhilesh had told him he would split the party and chart out on his own. "Main kasam kha ke kehta hoon hoon ki inhone mujhe kahan ye alag dal banayenge." (I swear that he told me he will form a separate political party).
On Akhilesh's criticism of Amar Singh, he simply said critics are not worthy of even the dust at Amar Singh's feet.
When positions are this hard, what does the father do? At the heart of the current crisis lies an inner conflict that Mulayam is suffering from. He well understands the indispensability of brother Shivpal but also cannot bring himself to showing his son the door.
If Mulayam's stated position has been to side with brother Shivpal against son Akhilesh, there was renewed evidence of it on Monday. On two occasions during the marathon meeting attended by Samajwadi Party leaders, Mulayam shouted his son down, once asking him to shut up and later asking, "Tumari haisiyat hi kya hai? Who are you? What is your capability? Can you win elections?"
If Akhilesh had called Amar Singh a dalal and a conspirator, Mulayam called the controversial leader his "brother" and put his weight once more firmly behind Shivpal.
Mulayam's bargaining chip against Akhilesh is his belief that his son still hasn't been able to eke out enough political capital to go it alone. The meeting was heading towards a forced show of bonhomie with dad asking beta to touch the feet of uncle when the final twist took place. Having touched Shivpal's feet, Akhilesh suddenly asked Mulayam to "tell Shivpal that he shouldn't support conspirators and those who work against the party."
He took the microphone and said, "Amar Singh got a story planted against me in a local newspaper, which also made it to the front page of The Times of India, in which I was termed as Aurangzeb and Mulayam was called Shah Jahan." He suggested that party MLC from Ghaziabad Ashu Malik was behind it.
At this, Shivpal snatched away the mic from Akhilesh and before all the party members on an open platform, called Akhilesh a liar. "Aapka CM jhootha hai (your CM is a liar)," said a furious Shivpal as Mulayam stormed out of the stage aborting his speech with a weak condemnation of the incident.
Subsequent meetings between the warring factions at Mulayam's behest have failed. The way the events panned out, with the CM of India's largest state being accused of lying before all party workers, it makes Akhilesh's position untenable. And for him, that's perhaps not a bad development. There is an impression that the churn might work out in Akhilesh's favour as he may emerge with greater control of his destiny.
Updated Date: Oct 25, 2016 07:44 AM